Why can't you send me a sample before I commit to buy?
The simple answer? .. we can but it won't be free and you will still have to wait for it to be made.
The sign industry is not a retail business, it is a service business.
Where can you go to buy quality sign letters and numbers in the entire USA? Well you can go to Lowe's, Home Depot or Ace Hardware but you will find the selections really limiting. Most if not all of their stocks are from overseas, have limited font selection and only come in a few small sizes.
Alternatively, you can visit a local sign company but the chances are they won't have a lot of samples either, and because they are usually a service oriented business, rather than a retail sales oriented business, they will have to order the letters in from a manufacturer. Most sign companies do not manufacture their own sign letters. They purchase them and then charge you to install them. That's where their interest lies, in servicing you, not selling you letters to install yourself.
The major manufacturer's in this industry only sell to sign companies. They are not at all interested in selling to the end user and for the most part, a sign company doesn't need samples. They already know the quality, the colors, the fonts, and how to install them. For the very same reason, there are no instructions that come with your letters. Essentially, you are buying a non-retail product, one that was never intended to be sold directly to the public.
It is only with the advent of Internet commerce that sign letters could be purchased directly by an end user, mostly through sign companies with an online presence. Even so, there is still no stocked product. That's because sign letter manufacturer's still manufacture to order, and because of that there are no off the shelf samples to be sent at a moments notice. Everything is made to order and all returned items for any reason are recycled rather than put into inventory. It is cheaper to recycle or scrap than it is to store.
The manufacturer's don't even have color chips that they are willing to send out to anyone other than the sign companies. For painted colors, they won't even send those. For metal finishes, well you could be waiting for weeks. If you want a sample we have to order it, wait for it to be made, shipped to us at our expense and then shipped on to you. It's ponderously slow!
For this reason we allow you to buy a single letter in whatever material or finish you desire. It can serve as a sample but you will be charged for both the letter and the shipping. You still have to wait the production and shipping time. For color samples, we have put together some color rings that you can have shipped to you but we require a deposit. We do that because if we didn't, we would never get them back for other people to use. We are consumers too. We understand that consumers want to know what they are getting before they buy it, but you also need to understand that these products are not intended to be purchased directly by end users. The manufacturer's are there to supply the sign companies, who in turn are there to supply you.
The sign industry is not a retail oriented business. It is a service business with a closed and closely guarded supply chain designed to favor sign professionals who's livelihood's depend on keeping the industry a closed shop.